On November 5, 2009, the then 64-year-old Maryland medical malpractice plaintiff was involved in a serious car crash. At the scene of the crash, he complained of weakness in his right arm and pain in his left shoulder. By the time he arrived at the defendant Maryland hospital, he was also complaining of right hand weakness and pain in his neck when he tried to move it.
A CT scan showed a neck fracture but there was a question whether the neck fracture was new or was an old neck injury that the man had suffered when he was a teenager. The on-call trauma surgeon order a neurological evaluation by a new resident at the hospital. The resident allegedly told the trauma surgeon that the resident had spoken with the neurosurgeon. The trauma surgeon then advised the resident that the man could be discharged from the hospital if he was determined to be at baseline. A nurse determined that the man was close to baseline, without examining the man’s right arm and hand again. The man was discharged from the hospital only a few hours after his arrival.
The defendant hospital’s policy was that a neurosurgeon had to examine any patient with a spinal fracture, which did not occur in this case (the neurosurgeon testified during trial that he was not called to come to the hospital to examine the plaintiff). There was no indication in the man’s medical records that a neurological consultation took place or that the neurosurgeon accessed the man’s medical records.
According to the man’s family, he had to be carried into his house after he was discharged from the emergency room. While he was sleeping at home that evening, the neck fracture shifted, and he awoke to having no sensation below his mid-chest and he was unable to move his legs. He was brought to another hospital, where an MRI showed a large herniated disc that was caused by the car crash. He was transferred to another hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.
The Maryland medical malpractice jury took three hours after a 12-day trial to return its verdict in the amount of $176,550.44 for the man’s past medical expenses, $1,863,777.00 for future medical and related expenses, $297,360.00 for past nursing expenses, $250,000.00 for loss of consortium (reduced to $133,000.00 pursuant to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases), and $1,000,000.00 for noneconomic damages, which was reduced to $532,000.00 pursuant to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. The jury returned its verdict on May 28, 2014. The court entered judgment against the Maryland medical malpractice defendants on June 24, 2014.
Buttrey, et ux. v. Suburban Hospital, et al., Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Case No. 373306V.
Source: The Daily Record, June 27, 2014.
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